November 21, 2013 — I’ve had the privilege of being an at-home dad for over eight years. It's a privilege because my wife and I are financially stable enough for me to work without a paycheck. It’s a privilege because I’ve been able to battle through my own internal conflicts, society's gender stereotypes, certain expectations held by family and friends, and the feelings of isolation most at-home parents experience from time to time.
About five years ago, a former teaching colleague decided to stay at home with his newborn son. As he scanned our city, he found dozens of mom groups, but most didn't allow dads to participate. Parenting and children's classes were focused on moms and even called "Mommy & Me." Parenting media was focused on moms, and dads got a shout-out once a year on Father's Day.
So we decided to start the NYC Dads Group—a community for dads to meet one another and share great experiences with our kids. In the last five years, nearly 900 dads of all stripes have joined our group. We've organized over 900 Meetups—many with our kids, and many without. We've grown a nationally recognized blog and podcast, and we hold workshops for expecting dads multiple times per month.
With that platform, we hope to change the way the world views dads. We firmly believe that fathers can be just as caring (or scared) and capable (or unsure) as mothers. We hope to help dads become more active and involved parents, and couples recognize the benefits of establishing a true parenting partnership.
We're also pushing employers to recognize fathers as parents. Studies by academic institutions (Boston College Center for Work and Family), nonprofits (Families & Work Institute), and even marketers (Edelman PR, Dove Men+Care) have all shown that most dads want to succeed as fathers as much as we want to succeed at work—but we’re not sure how to balance those often-conflicting imperatives.
It’s time for women and men to work together to create more flexible workplaces. Women have been fighting alone for decades. Men should be welcomed as both allies and beneficiaries of family-friendly policies.
Male and female leaders need to recognize their employees as fully functioning people with lives, commitments, and priorities outside of the office. Pioneering male and female leaders need to actively demonstrate a full life so that they can inspire a supportive culture. Male and female leaders need to be trained to manage towards practices that emphasize efficiency, prioritization, and mutually agreed-upon results.
Both men and women need policies that support excellence in the workplace and excellence at home. Both men and women need a culture that allows them to be serious about their work, but also prioritize their commitments outside of work. Both men and women need leaders and mentors that create and inspire an effective workplace.
Fathers, families, and communities are coming together to support new ways of being a dad. It’s time for workplaces to do so as well.